Podcast double- #DownTheRabbitHole & #WordMonkeys

Podcast double- #DownTheRabbitHole & #WordMonkeys

 This week I appeared on two podcasts: the Down the Rabbit Hole Radio Show and the WordMonkeys Podcast 

 

Down the Rabbit Hole Radio Show

Here’s me chatting to Polly Ho-Yen, and Katherine Woodfine and Mellissa Cox about three new books, each with a connection to poetry and spoken word: You Can Do Anything: Hip and Hop written by Akala, illustrated by Sav Akyuz Overheard in a Tower Block written by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner and Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence…

WordMonkeys Podcast 

Here’s me chatting to Matt Brown over on his WordMonkeys Podcast this week — discussing writing Cogheart, Postman Pat, Children’s TV shows, and how I get mistaken for another 72YO Peter Bunzl — and if you like that, there are lots of previous episodes featuring Matt’s writer chats with the likes of Piers Torday, Holly Bourne, Robin Stephens, SF Said etc.

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Cogheart Blogpost Roundup

Cogheart Blogpost Roundup

Finally for December, I thought I would share some of the blogposts and Q and As I have written since Cogheart was published in one big group post. Here they are…

It was fun to answer everyone’s various questions about the book, and even occasionally get to write about a few different things, like my favourite animals in children’s fiction…

 

Bringing Animals to Life in Children’s Fiction for The Writers and Artists Blog….

Talking about the genesis of Cogheart with Stephanie over on her blog Typewritered…

 I also spoke with Pippa Wilson  at the HelloPipski Blog about the inside story behind Cogheart.

Who posted a lovely review of the book…

 

For the YaShot Blog Tour 2016 I spoke to George Lester over on his blog.

I also did a super-long interview with the website Airship Ambassador, which I think answers any question anyone could possibly conceive of about the book, here…

Over on Christina Banach‘s blog I took part in her spotlight author interviews…

And on Words and Pictures the SCBWI Blog I answered questions in Nicky Schmidt’s Scbwi Debut Authors series, talking about my journey to publication.

Words and pictures Banner Andrea L Paktchi

Fab Cogheart review on Books-a-Go-Go blog

Fab Cogheart review on Books-a-Go-Go blog

Check out this fab Cogheart review by Becca Judge on her children’s book blog Books-a-Go-Go.

Here’s a lovely quote from her about Cogheart….

…an ingenious and fresh take on adventuring in Victorian England. Readers should get ready for danger and imminent peril in a world of automatons and airships. Think Christmas Day Doctor Who special, only much, much better, as Bunzl’s beautiful writing is as soulful as it is thrilling.cogheart-done

SEED – Review

SEED – Review

SeedSeed by Lisa Heathfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pearl is a naive and dreamy girl who has lived all her life in the cult of SEED. SEED is a commune and farm made up of a few families, who are cut off from technology and the outside world. It is run by the the enigmatic and sinister Papa S. When newcomers arrive – in the form of Linda and her teenage son Ellis and daughter Sophie – Pearls feelings for Ellis, and the things he tells her about the outside world, plus all the secrets that she gradually discovers about the cult, start to make her question everything she has believed in, and her whole way of life…

SEED reminded me of so many other great cult stories, both cinematic and written. Drop City, Sons of Perdition, Louis Theroux and his visits to the Fred Phelps Cult. I find cults are a fascinating subject, because they are a microcosm of the worst human behaviour. They are the most extreme example of the fearful and delusional stories that societies and families and religions create to control people, and they can be startling in the way people buy into them in order to survive, or perhaps because they know no different. This book takes all that cult craziness and builds it to a thrilling crescendo as the characters struggle to free first their minds and then themselves.

Lisa’s writing is so beautiful and elegiacal, and locates us so strongly with Pearl and her joyful, upbeat unquestioning character voice, and yet she still manages to make clear to the reader that there are dark motivations behind everything going on at SEED. It’s a fine balancing act and it works to add an extra layer of fear and revulsion to what it already a strange and engrossing story.

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Books I read in 2015 + a few of my faves…

Books I read in 2015 + a few of my faves…

2015 is not quite over yet, and I might get one more book read if I’m lucky, but for now here are all the books I read in 2015. Looking at them all, there is quite a lot of Middle Grade, a bit of YA and one or two adult SCIFIs in there.

It’s a tough call but my favourite books of the year were probably.

In Middle Grade: PHOENIX,  ROOFTOPPERS being a close second.

In YA: SABRIEL

And in Adult fiction (of which I barely read any!): THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

Read all four and you will not be disappointed – they are all amazing!!

And to be honest, most of the rest of the year’s read were pretty amazing too…

Books I read in 2015 #2Books I read in 2015 #1

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

RooftoppersRooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautifully written story, filled with zingy one liners which made me laugh out loud, and had to be underlined for later.

Sophie is a spirited girl, who was found as a baby floating in a cello case on the ocean, one of few survivors from a shipwreck. Now, age twelve, and on the run from the British authorities, who want to put her in an orphanage, she travels to Paris to search for her mother, because ‘you should never ignore a possible’. With the aid of Charles her absent-minded but loveable long-legged guardian, and three rooftop living children – gruff Rooftopper Matteo and tree-dwelling sisters Safi and Anastasia – she gradually finds clues to her cello playing mother’s whereabouts.

It reminded me in elements of Peter Pan and also of Baron in the Trees as well as many other stories, and it has that classic timeless feel in spades, but packed with modern pithy humour in all the dialogue and description, a lovely middle grade book, that already feels like a classic.

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More Than This

More Than This

More Than ThisMore Than This by Patrick Ness

 

In the freezing cold ocean a boy struggles to keep his head above water, but the sea is strong and pulls him under. He drowns. Then wakes, alone, in an empty street in a derelict town in England, the only human left on Earth. How can this be? Is he in the after life, or limbo? Or is this somehow a figment of his dying imagination? And what’s even odder, he knows this street from before. . .

Spoilers!!!

Structure-wise, More Than This is very similar to The Knife of Never Letting Go – a teenage boy discovering secrets about his past in a world which is entirely alien to him, meeting allies, and being pursued by a dark figure. In fact, it has the same chase-and-catch structure of Knife, the same concrete real-time adrenaline pumping storyline that gradually doles out secret pieces of the past.

There are also thematic similarities to Knife: an exploration of interior thoughts vs exterior world through science fiction; the same interest in the way thoughts and the world bleed together and interact. In More Than This, however, these ideas seem to work much more directly than in Knife. In Knife it’s like thoughts are a magic ESP that characters possess, whereas in More Than This there is the hint that thoughts (or consciousness) is what the world is made of, and perhaps the story you create from your random experience is all there is. Is the ‘more than this’.

I love the directness of Patrick Ness’s writing, his urgent cinematic style where we are over the shoulder of our lead character – Seth – and stay with him only. It is the perfect way to tell the story of a character questioning the nature of reality; lost in a world he doesn’t understand. To stay close to Seth and his thoughts is probably the only way that you can tell this tale because the most important thing is that we do not know more than he does. We are learning with him, and have no concrete answers to the question of whether there’s an external reality at all or whether this is a dream taking place in his mind.

Patrick Ness is brilliant at having Seth think his way through problems, reason and consider both sides of an issue, and even when his friends, Tomasz and Regine, give him answers or help him out he questions the nature of their advice, even questions whether they and the driver (the villain of the piece) exist. This is a great post-modern way to undercut the problem of some of the scifi cliches that come up in a chase and catch plot, that at points is in danger of becoming Terminator meets The Matrix, and also keep things on an unsteady keel.

I love the depiction of Seth’s relationship with Gudmund in ‘the past’. The fact he is a gay hero in a scifi-ish novel, but also that that is only a part of his loneliness and his self, a fragment of it, and not what the story is solely about.

I also love it when a character like Seth, who feels alive, thinking and autonomous, suddenly questions the nature of their reality, and you, the reader, feel they are conscious of you and at any moment may work out that they are in a novel.

When Seth first questions the convenience of certain things in the story and whether Regine and Thomas are really real, I thought this was what he meant. And perhaps there is a playful hint of this all the way through, although maybe I am reading that wrong? Seth only exists, in that stream of words, while he’s telling himself the story, or is that the story being read? Just as you only exist when your brain is telling your story to you, and perhaps the ambiguous ending hints at these things too?

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